Okay, so I wrote a whole 24-page thingumy about how to write graphic design briefs and you can download it here (all you have to do is subscribe to my monthly-ish newsletter in return) but what this post specifically addresses is ways to communicate your style likes and dislikes with a designer.

Design briefs in brief

A design brief is a document you create in order to tell your chosen designer(s) the specifics of what you need from them, how you need it, your target audience, your budget, etc etc.

The part of this I’ve really seen clients struggle with is the bit where you try and communicate the kind of style that you’d like them to use. Of course, by describing your target audience well, your designer will already have some styles in mind and could suggest a few. If you’d like to cut some time out of the conceptual part of the design (and therefore potentially save yourself some money), the more specific you are about what you’re looking for the easier it’ll be for everyone.

I know what I want

Andrew Norton of Naturally Kind Foods was clear about wanting his t-shirt illustration created in the style of Sailor Jerry / Ed Hardy tattoos, and so that’s what I gave him…naturallykind_colour

I don’t have the words for what I want

But you might not be so clear about what you want, and you and your designer might not share the same vocabulary to describe a particular look. The word “vintage” might mean one thing to me and another to you.

So here are a few ideas you might consider in order to get your message across:

  • pinterest boards – objects, adverts (particularly of a chosen era – 1950s, 1980s etc), drawings, logos, typefaces. These are invaluable.
  • colour swatch ideas like designseeds
  • magazines also aimed at your target audience. Even if the magazine isn’t designed quite the way you’d want, flick through and have a look at the adverts
  • choose an actual object that sums up your business to you and show it to the designer. In the flesh. Is it a enamelled galvanised steel gardening bucket? A greasy spanner? You’d be surprised how effective this is.
  • a mood board – cut out clippings of this and that. This can be more useful than pinterest as you can have it next to your desk and gaze at it and have Wonderful Moments of Inspiration

But also

Sometimes it is best to consider alternatives to what you have in your head – designers have been thinking visually a long time and will often have some great ideas about how to give you what you want. I recently read that a good percentage of design agencies who’d won tenders had ignored the brief in some way – often by pushing ideas further than the client had ever imagined they create something spectacular. So do be ready to keep an open mind!

I’d be interested in hearing how others have showed their preferences within or alongside a design brief – the weirder the better!